As noted in today’s LL Daily, David Brooks, in his New York Times column this morning, painted Ward 3 with the typically broad brush you might know and love from such armchair sociological works Bobos in Paradise and On Paradise Drive.
A sample: “On any given Saturday, half the people in Ward Three are arranging panel discussions for the other half to participate in. They live in modest homes with recently renovated kitchens and Nordic Track machines crammed into the kids’ play areas downstairs (for some reason, people in Ward Three are only interested in toning the muscles in the lower halves of their bodies).”
So LL called Ward 3’s councilmember, Mary Cheh, to get her reaction. She minced no words:
“I do have something of a reaction. He’s made his living lobbing uninformed insults at various communities. He lives by these broad generalizations, which is somewhat ironic, since the man himself lives at Bethesda, Maryland…a community which suffers even worse stereotypes…He should be ashamed of himself!”
Cheh went on to postulate a cynical motive: “It might be a market strategy, since many of the New York Times readers are in Ward 3.”
The stereotypes, Cheh continued, are “extraordinarily offensive. That’s his stock in trade, to be offensive to communities….They’re not based on fact. They’re not based on first-hand knowledge.” She seemed most concerned about how Brooks’ comments reinforce the old tropes about white vs. black Washington: “It plays into these divisive stereotypes that people throw out about the District. It doesn’t help any community in this city.”
Cheh’s husband, Neil A. Lewis, is a longtime reporter in the Times’ Washington bureau. LL asked Cheh if she might ask him to crack some heads down at the office.
“No,” she said, “I’m leaving him out of it.”
UPDATE, 5:45 P.M.: For the record, Cheh says, she does not have a NordicTrack in her Forest Hills home. “And I haven’t had my kitchen remodeled!”
In fact, Brooks’ no-upper-body-toning rule sure doesn’t apply to Cheh. The councilmember tells LL she does 200 pushups daily.